Growing Through Our Struggles: A Simple Framework (Part 3)
Welcome back, everyone. We’re in the middle of a series where we’re talking about encouraging real change in our lives and relationships.
In the first post,
- I asked you to choose one struggle specific to you and your relationship with your boy/girlfriend, fiance(e) or spouse. (If you’re single, choose someone you’re close with. The process we’re looking at will work with any relationship!)
- Then, we looked at a case study from Mike and Jenna’s lives. I asked you to think about how you would give them help and hope.
- We introduced the first part of our simple framework for pursuing lasting change in our relationships. The key is to choose one ‘slice of life’ that relates to the problem you’re trying to work on. Ideally, you’d choose something that is straightforward, occurs frequently, motivates you (and anyone else involved), and will impact the rest of life.
- I asked you to choose a part of Mike and Jenna’s situation as a starting point for helping them, then offered one suggestion.
This time, I’ll share the second (and final) part of the framework, see how you’d apply it to Mike and Jenna, then offer my suggestion.
Again, our end-goal is to learn this framework so you can apply it to challenges in your own life and relationship. It really cuts through the confusion, and helps us keep making progress and stay encouraged.
Second, choose one bit of scripture.
It’s true that ‘all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.’ (2 Timothy 3:16) And, that every part of ‘the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12)
But most parts of God’s word are not relevant for the particular bit of our problem we’re addressing. (Obvious, I know.)
And, while there are most likely multiple passages or verses we could use, that could get overwhelming. Which would make real action, progress and encouragement harder.
So, we just want to choose one piece of God’s word that speaks to the one piece of our situation. And again, because there are many verses we might choose from, you’re unlikely to make a mistake. Pressure off. 😀
Ideally, that verse or passage of scripture would be one that:
- you’re familiar with – you don’t have to spend lots of time figuring out what it means; you’ve ‘lived life’ with it, at least to some degree
- is short – this makes it memorable, and easier to apply to your situation
- is relevant for the people you’re trying to help – in other words, it fits the situation; this includes meaning you can use it in a way that’s consistent with how it was used with the original audience
- contains a promise, and calls for a response
Helping Mike & Jenna: What Scripture Would You Choose?
Okay, thinking about Mike and Jenna’s situation in light of the above criteria, what scripture would you choose?
Feel free to list a few, then choose just one.
With the caveat that there’s a lot of freedom, here’s where I would start and why.
I would recommend Ephesians 4:31-5:2 –
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Let’s map it onto the criteria for choosing scripture I mentioned above. (Again, credit to David Powlison of CCEF for the framework, which he shares in his article ‘Think Globally, Act Locally.’ FYI, the article costs $5 but contains far more than that in value!)
- you’re familiar with the verses/passage – this is one I’ve used with couples fairly often, so I’m comfortable with it
- is short – 4 verses is manageable!
- is relevant to the people you’re trying to help – it definitely is. Here’s some of my thinking:
Last time, I mentioned how Mike and Jenna are disconnected. They’re frustrated with each other, and regularly pursuing other things after work each night.
We could suggest they eat dinner together, and there might be some value in that. But, it’s likely to be a Band-Aid and miss the issues that are leading to their disconnection.
While we can’t be sure all that’s going on at a deeper level, we know there’s a certain amount of bitterness. Jenna is frustrated with Mike’s ‘Netflix, beer and good night’ routine, and the way he’s been neglecting her. For his part, Mike is upset with Jenna for the way she continues working every evening, and her avoidance of physical intimacy.
There’s a need for honest engagement and forgiveness, rooted in a growing understanding of Christ’s forgiveness for them.
- contains a promise, and calls for a response
The response piece is straightforward – to imitate God by forgiving each other, and extending kindness where they’ve withheld it in the past.
But it’s broader and richer than that, too. I would hope that the Spirit helps Mike and Jenna consider what it means to be ‘beloved children’ of God, and then to ‘imitate’ him as they live with each other.
The promise piece is less clear, and more implied. But the context of the surrounding chapters gives some clues about the benefits Mike and Jenna may experience as they learn to love each other well.
- experience a progressive weakening of their ‘old selves’ (pre-Christ), and strengthening of their ‘new selves’ as they grow in real likeness to God (Ephesians 4:22-24)
- give the devil less opportunities to cause division in their marriage (Ephesians 4:26-27)
- bring joy to the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30)
- guard their marriage against sexual temptation and immorality (Ephesians 5:3) – as their forgiveness and love lead to more connection, the disconnect in their sex lives may fade
- more closely live out God’s plan for their marriage to re-enact the gospel (Ephesians 5:21-33; see especially 5:32)
I realize some of this may not be crystal clear. It’s not as straightforward as ‘do this, get that result’. But as Mike and Jenna follow God’s call to love and forgive each other as God loved and forgave them, they will be transformed, and their intimacy will improve.
Now that we’ve seen the entire, two-part framework, next week I’ll invite you to apply it to some challenge in your own relationship. See you soon!